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Issue #1458      9 June 2010

Editorial

World condemnation grows – lift the blockade, justice for the Palestinians!

The sense of outrage felt internationally at the actions of Israeli commandos aboard the ships of the Freedom Flotilla carrying aid for Gaza last week is not dissipating. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu is hitting out at growing condemnation with a campaign involving the release of tightly edited and misinterpreted records of the attack, misinformation and straight out lies. Sections of the media, including Murdoch’s News Limited, have rallied to its side. Unfortunately for Netanyahu, the situation created by the deaths and injuries aboard the Mavi Marmara will not be glossed over with a concerted PR campaign. The focus is now squarely on the brutality of the Israeli government’s blockade of Gaza and its thwarting of the right of the Palestinian people to an independent homeland.

Massive protests have taken place all over the world. The attack is also reinforcing recognition within Israel that the reckless actions of the government are worsening the security of the country. On the weekend, a march of 15,000 peace activists, including members of the Communist Party of Israel, was held in Tel Aviv under the slogan “The government is drowning us all”. A spokesman for the rally pointed out that “people are opposed to this government that is driving us toward international isolation and war.”

The concerns are very real. The political right in Israel likes to talk tough, to show no mercy and no regard for international public opinion or even resolutions of the United Nations. “The whole world is against us, we must defend ourselves” is its message to the people of Israel and, for a long time, it has carried the day in government. Now comes the realisation that actions flowing from this mantra are threatening the very thing people sought to achieve with the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 – a place where the Jewish people could at last feel safe.

The death and suffering inflicted by the commandos has led Turkey – a US ally and one of Israel’s few friends in the region – to condemn the attack and to consider sending a military escort for future aid convoys. It has caused closer bonds to be forged between Turkey and Iran, who the Israeli government views as a declared enemy. Egypt has opened its border with Gaza indefinitely, thereby ending its involvement in the Gaza blockade. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton now describes the blockade as “untenable”. US tolerance of the Israeli government’s frustration of the peace process and real progress towards the establishment of a Palestinian state is also becoming untenable.

The motives for the Israeli government’s stance on Gaza are now in the spotlight. The blockade is claimed to be a means to prevent the smuggling into the territory of rockets and other weapons that could later be used to strike at Israel. With the interception of ships carrying humanitarian aid, people can see it has been imposed to make life impossibly hard in Gaza, to force its inhabitants to overthrow the Hamas-led government. That is not happening. Last week’s tragic events have also caused serious questions to be asked about the judgement of the Israeli government and its fitness to control a suspected nuclear arsenal.

Demands for Israel’s withdrawal to its pre-1967 borders are getting louder. So, too, is the call for a halt to the building of settlements on Palestinian land. The UN has called on the Israeli government to allow a full, open, international commission of inquiry into the attack on the Freedom Flotilla. Netanyahu is under growing pressure to comply. The blockade of Gaza must be lifted immediately.

The solidarity movement in Australia should support all of these demands. It should also call on the Australian government to take a strong diplomatic response including the expulsion of the ambassador for Israel. The agreement allowing Israeli Defence Force representation at Australian military colleges concluded in March should be withdrawn. There must be no Australian Defence Force participation in shared intelligence and training activities with the Israeli military. The government should provide humanitarian assistance and compensation to Australian participants in the flotilla.

The track record of successive Australian governments on the life and death issues faced by the Palestinian people is poor. The current government will not act in a consistent and principled way unless the current pressure for action can be increased. 

Next article – Poor families face lights out

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